academic achievement, Americans, anxiety, Asperger's Syndrome, Autism, bullying, communication, confusion, D.A.M.P., Family Guy, Great Britain, He Was Weird, relationships, schools, stereotypes, teachers
This question has been asked of me for more than fifty years now and after that many years of reflecting on it, I am finally going to answer that question myself. I will do this by first looking at some of the reasons put forward by others. The first one put forward by my mother and I will say from the beginning that there is definitely truth in it. When my parents split when I was five, we lived with my grandparents. My grandfather was from a different time who firmly believed that children should be seen an not heard and he applied that philosophy towards me. He wasn’t harsh or cruel or anything like that, he just had the idea that children should remain quiet. As with people who have Asperger’s Syndrome, I took grandfather’s belief literally and kept quiet, at least around him. While it could be pointed out that my grandfather passed away when I was 22, having that theory instilled in me at such a young age still had its effects many years later.
An off shoot to my grandfather’s philosophy was the belief that you should only say something if its worth hearing about. Children were even more to blame in this respect. My grandfather never retorted “I couldn’t care less” if I spoke about things that didn’t pertain to the situation or if it was about me exclusively. In fact, during my three years of hell, many of the other children didn’t want to hear anything I had to say and would react threateningly if I said anything. Bullies would always use this on me, threatening to use violence if I didn’t keep quiet. That experience alone was enough to make me fearful of speaking.
Let me be the first to acknowledge that I have spoken in the past without thinking about it properly. Sure, we all have done it but it seems that with me that my slip of the tongue broke through what was socially acceptable or was the wrong thing to say at the wrong time and I ended up getting in trouble for it. The result of this was that I came to the conclusion that everything I said was going to be wrong so it was best not to say anything at all.
One interesting finding from all this was when I was in college. I took a course in interpersonal communication and while I was criticized by fellow students and my professor for being too quiet, they were also amazed that when I did offer something to the group, it was very key to whatever the discussion was about. I know that this was from having instilled in me in my youth that I shouldn’t talk unless I have something worth contributing. Therefore, in class discussions back then, what I said was almost always beneficial to the discussion. So, maybe that was a positive.
There was one additional thing which contributed to my unwillingness to speak. This came along in my early adult life when I came to the UK. Always trying to avoid the negative stereotypes about Americans, I found sometimes going the other extreme at times. In this case, it was the stereotype that all Americans are loudmouths. Not wanting to be tarred with such a brush made me think that it was much better to be quiet.
Anxieties are making me think that some people might read about this and conclude that I am just trying to make excuses for myself. This is not true! I have lived with myself for over half a century and the above contributors to my quietness are genuine. It has taken a long time for me to come out of my shell but I also know that I could very easily retreat back into it at any time.
Next post: With Friends Like These
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